Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia
Welcome, it is so good to have you here today to worship as we celebrate the most significant feast of the Christian calendar, Easter. In fact we will be celebrating Easter for the next 50 days, Easter is that important. This is the crowning moment that we have been building up to over the last seven weeks. Ash Wednesday and Lent with Stations of the Cross gave us a period for reflection, repentance, almsgiving, prayer, fasting and the reading of the Gospel of Matthew. The drama of Holy Week was amazing beginning with the Liturgy of the Palms and the reading of the Passion Narrative as we told the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent arrest, torture, crucifixion, death and burial. The annual Chrism Mass held at St Mark’s in Grand Rapids with Bishop Whayne is a wonderful time for the clergy of the diocese to gather for fellowship, the renewal of our ordination vows and to receive fresh baptismal oils for anointing. Albion’s sixth and final Lenten Lunch was held this past week at Grace Temple. It is such a blessing to be able to visit different local churches to share a meal and to hear a message. The moving Maundy Thursday Service with Foot Washing and The Stripping of the Altar was celebrated with the United Methodists and Presbyterians here at St. James’. The service recalls Jesus’ final meal with his disciples and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The foot washing reminds us that Jesus came, not to be served but to serve, and that we are called to follow his example of humble service to our friends and our neighbors. The Altar was stripped as Jesus was stripped of his dignity, friends, clothing and even his life. On Good Friday we were honored to host the Albion Ministerial Association Ecumenical Good Friday Service with “The Last Seven Words of Christ”. It is such a privilege to hear seven different speakers from diverse congregations. I was thankful to be able to share some of our traditional Good Friday hymns and liturgy. Friday evening we shared a Tenebrae service with the United Methodists and Presbyterians at Wesley Chapel with a reading of John’s Passion Narrative and the extinguishing of the lights as Jesus’ life was extinguished. It is such a blessing to be able to share our Christian story with Christians of so many different traditions. Many thanks go out to our Altar Guild who participated in the stripping of our sanctuary on Thursday evening and then returned Saturday morning to prepare for Easter. Haven’t they done a beautiful job! The highlight of the week was a trip to St. Andrew’s in Grand Rapids last night to celebrate the Great Easter Vigil, the Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation of sixteen individuals from the diocese and the first Eucharist of the Easter Season. There was an amazing bowl of fire from which the Paschal Candle was relit, a retelling of part of our faith story, a setting up of the altar for Easter, the baptism of an infant and the confirmation of our own Matthew and Nicole Vaughn. Please join me in congratulating them <Clapping> and please join them for a slice of celebration cake in the parish hall immediately following this service.
Which brings us to our own celebration of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ this morning. Without the resurrection the death of Jesus would lose its significance for us. It would be the death of a great teacher, preacher and healer, but the death of a man as we all anticipate death. It is the resurrection of Jesus, the empty tomb, the restoration of new life to Jesus that gives the meaning to Easter. Some of us may struggle with the idea of resurrection. Even Jesus’ disciples and the first century people had doubts. Dead people do not come back to life after three days in the grave. This is not about a scientifically provable event, this is about the mystery of the great power and glory of God to restore life even in death, and this is our faith and our hope. Our great hope is that as we died with Christ in the waters of our Baptism, we also rose with Jesus from the waters of our Baptism to eternal life. Resurrection and eternal life are not just something that will happen in the distant future, but are something that can and do happen even now in our current lives. We rise from despair to new opportunities, healing from sickness, marriage and a new family. This is not full resurrection but is a glimpse of the promised Kingdom of Heaven.
In this morning’s telling of the resurrection story from the Gospel according to Matthew, we remember with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary of the hasty burial of Jesus before the Sabbath in a cold, dark tomb with a huge stone rolled before its entrance; we remember how the religious leaders feared that Jesus’ disciples would come and steal away his body and claim that he had been raised to life again and the placing of a guard by the tomb. We walk with the women as they go to visit the grave of Jesus and join in their horror as the ground shakes beneath their feet and the hear the great stone rolled away. We shake with fear with the soldiers and the women as a bright shining, flashing celestial being, an angel of the Lord from heaven appears and says, “Do not be afraid. Jesus is no longer here, he has been raised. Come to the tomb and see for yourself. Now go and tell Jesus’ disciples what you have seen and heard.” And we share in their amazement and joy as they turn to go and suddenly Jesus himself appears before them and we fall with them to our knees and worship Jesus. And Jesus says to the women and to us, “Do not be afraid; go and tell what you have heard and what you have seen.” Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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